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.. ntire army from being destroyed by the Hun army by aiming the last canon at the snow on the mountaintop in order to cause an avalanche to fall on the Hun army. She also is able to devise, and successfully execute a plan to save the emperor from the surprise attack from the surviving Huns. However, the few changes that Disney did make to the original tale of Mulan reinforce the traditional, one dimensional, Disney ideals. The company promotes the common theme which is found in many Disney movies that a woman must find a man, Prince Charming, to be happy. At the beginning of the movie, Mulan's family is attempting to convert her into a traditional Chinese girl to prepare for her meeting with the matchmaker.
However, everything goes wrong and the matchmaker refuses to find a husband for Mulan, claiming that no man would ever want her. This inability to find a husband and marry as she is supposed to makes Mulan a misfit in her culture and is the catalyst for her running off to war. Mulan is also portrayed as being weaker than men as she is, at first, unable to perform up to par with the rest of the army. And although she is later a hero, recognized and awarded medals by the Emperor, she is still not completely happy. It is only in the last scene that everyone is satisfied when the army captain comes to her house to profess his love. Medals and a court job offer are not enough for Mulan, or for the consumers and Disney producers, for that matter; the potentiality of a husband in Shang Li, the mark of her ability to fit in with her culture, is the final and real "prize" it seems Mulan was seeking in her efforts against the Huns.
This idea of Mulan not truly being a feminist film is further enhanced by Chen Ken. He argues in his article, "The Shadow of Mu Shu Dragon, "that the "Disney Corporation..despite having taking great pains to endow Mulan with a good many virtues-filial piety, intelligence, forthrightness, and bravery-it has been unable to escape the shadow of 'male privilege" (25). Ken sees the addition of the male dragon, Mu Shu, as the writers' and directors' attempt to insert a male protagonist, since his role, given to him by Mulan's ancestors, is to protect Mulan throughout her adventures and to make sure she returns home safely. In this way, although the woman figure is clearly the hero, she is still dependant upon a male figure and therefore seen as not fit to take care of herself. Still, the film proved to successfully capture and entertain the American audience, critics giving similar reviews to that of Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly who deemed that "Mulan is artful and satisfying" (63). This success is seen even in numbers, Mulan ending its run at the theaters with a box office total of 120.6 million dollars (Mulan), one of Disney's biggest animated films.
On the other side of the globe, Mulan did not fare nearly as well as in the United States. In fact, it was basically a failure in China, only collecting 11 million dollars at the box office (Mulan). Although the Disney Company researched and came up with a marketing plan which it believed would allow Mulan to be profitable in China, the Chinese did not react in ways that the company foresaw. The first aspect of Disney's marketing plan was the date of release of the animated film in China. Disney decided to release the movie immediately after the Spring Festival, a time in which the children are still on vacation and have the time to watch movies and the population will still be celebrating the New Year, everyone in "the appropriate mood for such [a] light-hearted and humorous subject matter," (Li, 16) that will celebrate their culture as is emphasized in Mulan. However, the results were not as Disney anticipated.
The company did not take into account that since the animated film was imported, the ticket prices were higher, and the Chinese might not have felt it was worth their money to watch an animated version of a story they are so familiar with, especially since "middle-aged and young moviegoers in most of China pay scant attention to children's subject matter" (16). And even if the consumers felt compelled to watch the film, there were already pirated copies of Mulan circulating through the country which would allow the Chinese to watch the movie at a much discounted price (16). However, the main reason for the animated film's failure in China was the Chinese peoples' dislike for the film's inaccurate depiction of Chinese historical and cultural themes. "The creators [of Mulan] gave first consideration to the viewing preferences of American audiences, everything in [Mulan] is tied to the Hollywood pattern; the inclusion of Chinese cultural elements exists merely to satisfy the novelty-seeking mentality of those same viewers" (Shao, 12). There are many stereotypical elements to the movie Mulan.
Stereotypes of Chinese good and culture clearly occur when the soldiers are ordering dinner and ask for dishes such as "mu gu chicken" and "braised pigs' trotters" and in the nuptial ceremony. Traditionally, a Chinese matchmaker attempts to please the parents of the man and woman, convincing the family that she will be able to make the best match for both. Also, while Mulan herself is "normal" looking, those around her are not. "The people around Mulan are either buck-toothed figures or else extremely emaciated, as though they are malnourished," (R. Zhang, 32) or are large and pale, with a Buddha-like belly. Another problem many Chinese found with the film was that Mulan's personality and mannerisms are very non-traditional for the Chinese culture.
"The Hua Mulan created by Disney mixes American-style humor, the boisterousness of girls in the American Wild West..and the hippie demeanor of modern youngsters" (Y. Zhang, 26). Mulan's expression of her feelings is modeled after Western movements, such as the shrugging of shoulders when one is unsure. The Western girl in Mulan is exemplified in Mulan's jumping up on and hugging the Emperor in the second to last scene, something that no Chinese woman or man, whether hero or not, would ever do. Therefore, although one can see that the filmmakers have made an effort to understand and learn the Chinese culture, the "American flavor" that the Walt Disney Company is unable to leave behind is quite obvious in its making of Mulan. So in fact, while it may appear on the surface that the Walt Disney Company has finally broken down its traditions, at the core of its retelling of the ancient tale of Hua Mulan, neither the lives of a Disney female nor a Disney depiction of a minority culture has really changed.
He Zhongshun even believes that "The Disney Corporation probably decided from the very outset that, even though the background story came from ancient Chinese history, they would not abandon Disney's characteristic atmosphere and humor. Buried beneath its feminist appearance, Mulan still manages to convey to the world that all a woman needs to be happy is a man. Similarly, while Disney has made a step forward in researching some aspects of Chinese culture, the changes and additions the company has made to the traditional story seem to trivialize and make humor out of the Chinese culture. So it seems that although Disney can market itself as being modern as an attempt to please their consumers, it will inevitably revert to its traditional western values. Works CitedChen, Ken.
"The Shadow of Mu Shu Dragon." Chinese Sociology & Anthropology 32.2 (1999): 25. Deszcz, Justyna. "Beyond the Disney spell, or escape into Pantoland." The Folklore Society. April 2002: 83-92. Proquest.
Electric Lib University of Southern California Lib., Los Angeles, CA. 22 April 2004 . Gleiberman, Owen. "Mulan." Entertainment Weekly 17 July 1998: 63. He, Zhongshun. "What Does the American Mulan Look Like?." Chinese Sociology & Anthropology 32.2 (1999):23-24.Kuhn, Anthony. "China to Show 'Mulan,' Seeming to End Its Dispute With Disney." The Los Angeles Times.
8 Feb. 1999: 14. Proquest. Electric Lib University of Southern California Lib., Los Angeles, CA. 22 April 2004 .Li, Fei. "Plan for Mulan's Marketing Strategy." Chinese Sociology & Anthropology 32.2 (1999): 15-19."Mulan's China Woes." Asiaweek. 2 April 1999.
26 April 2004. .Shao, Peng. "Analysis of Mulan's Selling Points and Marketing Operations." Chinese Sociology & Anthropology 32.2 (1999):11-14. Song, Quanzhong. "Mulan's Former Home Hitches a Ride with Disney." Chinese Sociology & Anthropology 32.2 (1999): 33-34. Zhang, Renjie.
"Ode to Mulan." Chinese Sociology & Anthropology 32.2 (1999): 30-32.Zhang, Yang. "Thoughts Elicited by Illustration." Chinese Sociology & Anthropology 32.2 (1999): 26-27. Zhu, Yi. "Seeing Mulan in the United States." Chinese Sociology & Anthropology 32.2 (1999): 20-22.
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